How our driver-based van fleet strategy can help combat Covid-19 operational challenges

Fleet Service GB is encouraging companies to continue investing in their van fleet operation as the industry combat ongoing operational challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Vans are getting older and more expensive to maintain as semiconductor shortages compromise new vehicle supply, vehicles are working harder and covering more miles due to the meteoric growth in home shopping and competition for drivers continues to grow.

From years of working in partnership with its van fleet customers and focusing on work-related road safety, driver wellbeing, and importantly ensuring drivers feel valued and appreciated has resulted in an efficient and deliverable Fleet Service GB van fleet management programme.

Fleet Service GB puts drivers at the heart of everything it delivers for clients and can demonstrate that this approach delivers reduced costs, crashes, incidents, and maintenance costs.

Housing association Live West’s fleet manager Paul Ayris and Fleet Service GB have worked together for the past three years to create a detailed behavioural overview for 400 drivers through the Achieve vehicle and driver management programme.

A reduction in driver vehicle abuse has translated into reducing fleet maintenance costs from 3.43p per mile per van to 3.09p in just 12 months, proving a driver-centric approach works. Incident rates have halved with at fault crashes reducing by 40%. Driver related damage costs have also fallen by 50% during that time leading to self-insured insurance policy rebates and reduced premiums.

However, anything less than a 100% buy-in from the company’s board risks compromising a successful work-related road safety programme. This includes ensuring that sufficient time and energy is invested in the implementation and management of the programme. The company must be able to demonstrate that it is fully committed to always supporting drivers and vehicles, communications must be effective, and drivers must feel fully involved in all aspects of the programme. 

Geoffrey Bray, Fleet Service GB’s chairman said: “Working with van fleet operators of all sizes across the UK, the results are clear to us; if drivers are well managed, communicated with and supported by an integrated IT management system, then the drivers will feel valued, vehicle utilisation will improve, all impacting positively on operational efficiency. 

“As time pressure increases on a driver, stress levels go up resulting in more crashes employers must have in place a comprehensive driver, vehicle, journey management programme capturing and joining up all of the measured performance data. As the data is analysed the appropriate and necessary support initiatives and interventions are applied. Safety and compliance must never be compromised, a fully integrated approach will produce positive results. 

“It should also improve driver retention, which is particularly pertinent in this current employment environment,” he added.

Driver communication is another key part of a successful van fleet management policy which is why Fleet Service GB has spearheaded the ongoing development of its Achieve Driver App. The App plays a significant integrated role in all aspects of communication, access to all services easy to navigate processes, prompts reminders and messages covering driver handbook and fleet policy updates plus seasonal advice and a variety of tips showing drivers how to look after themselves and their vehicles.

As companies face the increasing pressure to comply with environmental changes and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, there has never been a better time for van operators to revisit their van policies and embrace an integrated, fully inclusive vehicle and driver strategy. 

Managing work-related road safety is a good place to start.

Technology and human interaction partnership successfully keeps drivers and vehicles moving during the pandemic

Fleets emerged from the pandemic with a good understanding that automation and personal communication had proved to be a perfect combination to keep drivers safe and compliant during the pandemic according to Fleet Service GB’s recent customer partner survey.

Fleets said they valued the App’s real time data collection as more of their colleagues were working remotely, while drivers appreciated having access to human interaction with Fleet Service GB’s customer service team 24-hours a day, seven days a week, especially when trying to resolve a vehicle problem.

Fleet Service GB proactively contacted drivers about getting vehicles booked in for servicing and MOTs via the App. During the first lockdown, Fleet Service GB had to arrange, in a number of instances, for garages to open to carry out urgent servicing and repairs to keep customer vehicles on the road.

The Fleet Service GB’s Driver App also proved invaluable for businesses to share important news and updates with drivers during the pandemic. It also enabled companies to record the condition of vehicles as they were being mothballed as they responded to ever-changing business conditions, while thousands of vehicle check sheets were being filled in by drivers and processed via the App so fleets could keep a close eye on the condition of their vehicles.

“The App removes waste by exposing and transferring information directly between the driver, supporting supply chain, Stannah and Fleet Service GB. We have enjoyed playing a role in its ongoing development,” explained Martin Carter Group Information Systems Director, Stannah.

Carter as part of a unique Fleet Service GB Achieve User Group contributing to the latest version of the Driver App upgrade 3.1 which includes making it easier for drivers to access, check and complete declarations, providing speedier access to company documents and to view and manage their daily to-do list.

While the App proved a vital digital connection with drivers, employees valued being able to speak to the Fleet Service GB team by phone around the clock to discuss a driving or vehicle related issue. The feedback was that it contributed to drivers feeling less isolated and it contributed positively to their well-being.

“I was reassured that if any of my drivers rang the Fleet Service GB number out of hours they would be greeted by a friendly voice – who understands how to deal with their issue.  The fact Fleet Service GB never closed its customer service operation was very important,” said James Ford Operations Director, VPS UK Ltd.

Rino Agozzino, Dynniq’s head of procurement (UK & Ireland) said: “I am reassured my drivers always receive a human response and an immediate reaction to a problem.”

“In our experience we know driver and vehicle well-being is inextricably linked which is why we saw technology and human interaction work in harmony during the pandemic,” explained Fleet Service GB’s chairman Geoffrey Bray.

“While many businesses furloughed their customer service teams or reduced working hours, our call centre never shut. There was always someone at the end of a phone for customers and drivers to talk to around the clock.

“Our in-house team has a process of continual improvement for our App. We know from customer feedback it’s often some of the smallest updates that make the biggest difference,” he added.

How our partnership helped improve driver management and reduce costs

“Every LiveWest driver sits in the Achieve Driver Management programme which proactively measures their performance against a range of methods including points on driving licences, speeding, parking charges and crashes. Incident rates halved during a 12-month period. Driver-related damage costs also fell by 50% over the same period. Achieve is very much ingrained into our process now.”

Paul Ayris, Fleet Manager at LiveWest, explains how our partnership has helped improve driver management and reduce costs, in Fleet News.

Read the full article here (page 26): Fleet News April 2021

Returning to work – are you ready to drive?

As government restrictions are slowly being relaxed, many people are returning to work, and possibly returning to the daily commute, which could involve getting back behind the wheel after a long period away.

It is very important to refamiliarise yourself with your vehicle and complete certain checks, to make sure the vehicle is road worthy and you are comfortable to get back on the road.

We have introduced a checklist for drivers to help with this transition back to driving – read it here: Return to driving checklist


New FIAG guide helps companies roll out a post Covid-19 fleet strategy amid safety and compliance concerns

The Fleet Industry Advisory Group (FIAG) is so concerned at the impact Covid-19 is having on the safety and compliance of vehicle fleets it has released a series of recommendations on how companies should face up to a post pandemic future.

‘Road Safety Pays Dividends’ is a free-to-download 14-page guide aimed at addressing the numerous challenges that have been thrown at fleets since the first lockdown involving both the driver and their vehicle.

These challenges include:

  • Home working drivers not using vehicles from one month to the next and hence the risk of many vehicles becoming unroadworthy
  • Restricted servicing and MOT facilities being open for business during 2020 and fewer drivers having their vehicles checked and being fit for purpose
  • The increasing number of fleet professionals being furloughed, made redundant or taking early retirement leaving vehicle fleet management in the hands of generalists

FIAG is committed to sharing best practice across the fleet industry and chairman Ian Housley feels the time has come for fleets to agree on a post Covid vehicle fleet plan and get it implemented as soon as ‘humanly possible’.

He said: “It is vital to begin the recovery from this unprecedented experience by ensuring best practice processes are implemented that cover drivers, vehicles and journeys.

“Companies need to recognise that drivers of company vehicles need to be an inclusive component of a pandemic recovery plan.

“As well as protecting the considerable investment made in vehicle fleets by employers it will help improve operational efficiencies, reduce costs and make driving safer,” he added.

FIAG’s highly experienced fleet team hopes the guide will give companies confidence to use the Covid-19 pandemic as a one-off opportunity for employers and employees to produce a plan where agreed objectives are set.

The guide goes as far as embracing the green revolution, including the adoption of electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles in the future. It also reminds everyone of a company’s health and safety responsibilities which may have been compromised by the people and structural changes recently made in many organisations due to Covid. 

As the traditional fleet manager is now almost non-existent within many organisations, many companies have lost the in-house knowledge and skills necessary to develop and deliver a post COVID-19 cost effective fleet operation. 

“The squeeze on fleet managers is getting worse as more than ever vehicle fleets are being managed by someone as part of a much wider remit and often without any true fleet management experience,” reminded Housley.

FIAG member Graham Bellman recently retired as fleet director of Travis Perkins and urges fleet operators to sign up to the ‘Road Safety Pays Dividends’ philosophy.

He said: “Act on the guide’s recommendations and it will not only ensure you comply with current legislation, but as we proved the savings achieved within the fleet operation were around 15% based on driver management, improved systems and reporting and proactive driver engagement.”

Paul Ayris is fleet manager at LiveWest which is the largest provider of affordable homes in the south west of England running 350 vans and has worked with founding FIAG member Geoffery Bray from Fleet Service GB for the past couple of years.

“Covid-19 has been a wake-up call for many organisations. The FIAG guide is filled with a common sense, non-nonsense approach but making it happen is I am afraid down to individuals or teams who genuinely want to drive change.

“As a housing association LiveWest applies a value for money approach to all areas and the expenditure and investment in positive fleet management ensures the solution delivers the best and most cost-effective option which forms the basis of FIAG’s advice.

“Our fleet results speak for themselves, a year on our investment is yielding positive outcomes and removing cost, reducing road traffic collisions and delivering an operational and cost-efficient fleet,” he said.

For a free copy of the FIAG guide download it here:

The company car of the future: A hub for yoga, sleeping and relaxing

Is this what the company car of 2050 could like? The futuristic model is a fully electric, colour-changing vehicle with space for passengers to make the most of the time they spend in the autonomous car – by relaxing, doing yoga and even sleeping during the commute.

Featuring ‘digital paint’, the car allows passengers to change the colour and style of the vehicle from the tap of an app, depending on their mood, with advances in technology meaning such a feature could be widely available as early as 2040.

Designed to be a home away from home, passengers can relax and unwind on the built-in mattress in the centre of the spacious cabin

The glimpse into the future is courtesy of Auto Trader, which claims to be the UK’s largest digital marketplace for new and used cars. It compiled the concept design based on the expertise of futurologist Tom Cheesewright, market trends, the rate of technological development and research into consumer demand.

The 2050 driverless car is in the shape of a smooth pod and has features that include a built-in library and large in-built TV screen. The vehicle welcomes passengers with a friendly AI (artificial intelligence) that helps them set their preferred driving speed and style, whether out for a leisurely Sunday drive or dashing home for dinner.

The car is fitted with windows that extend right over the roof in one large bubble, offering more head room to allow passengers to freely move around during transit.

It also features 360 degree panoramic views for those wanting to sit back, relax and enjoy an autonomous ride, plus black-out functionality on the windows, which can be activated with a quick tap.

Auto Trader’s Rory Reid said: “The Government’s recent announcement on bringing forward the ban on sales of petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars to 2035 is already influencing what Brits are looking for. Overnight we saw a 165% increase in searches for electric vehicles on Auto Trader.

“So it’s no surprise that the 2050 car will be fully electric, but it’s fascinating to think what these advancements, including driverless tech, could mean for the actual design of cars and how they could be used.

Futurologist, Mr Cheesewright said: “Tomorrow’s car takes you from A to B with minimum fuss and in maximum style. Future technologies will give designers free reign to create more space and comfort, so that we can get on with our lives, while an AI takes care of the driving. While our cars won’t be flying any time soon, we can all benefit from cleaner, quieter, safer roads. In just 20 years, the age of the combustion engine will be well and truly over.”

Pump prices plummet as oil falls to 18-year-low and could plunge further

The cost of unleaded petrol has dropped to almost £1 a litre at supermarket forecourts with a litre of diesel at around 110p following unprecedented falls in pump prices – and further cuts could follow.

Fleet fuel bills will naturally tumble as a result – although vehicles should now only be driven on essential journeys under the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic lockdown implemented by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Fuel station forecourts are among the ‘essential businesses’ the Government is allowing to stay open.

However, the RAC has warned of “a darker side” to the fuel price cuts. RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “Smaller independent forecourts who will already have been struggling due to a loss of trade recently will be extremely hard-pushed to reduce their prices at the present time with fewer people driving. It’s crucial they stay in business as they provide such an important service to drivers in parts of the country where the supermarkets have no footprint.”

Amid far-reaching concerns over the spread of coronavirus, Mr Williams advised drivers filling up with fuel to “take sensible precautions”. He said: “Follow the social distancing guidelines and use disposable gloves when handling pumps or indeed electric car charge point nozzles.”

A series of moves have triggered the fall in fuel prices. In early March, oil prices tumbled after a failure by Saudi Arabia and Russia to agree on cutting back oil production in the wake of falling global demand due to the deadly coronavirus. As a result, Saudi Arabia said it would flood the market with oil.

That led to a barrel of crude oil trading at around $35, but prices have since fallen further and there are even reports oil companies are preparing for the price to slump to just $10 a barrel, which would trigger further price cuts at the pumps.

Generally speaking it takes approximately two weeks for a fall in crude oil prices to feed through to the pumps. Prices ended 2019 at $61 a barrel.

What’s more, there was widespread speculation in the run-up to the March Budget that the Chancellor would increase fuel duty. However, he decided against that thus helping to keep the lid on any pump price rise.

Then, this week, as the nation plunged further into the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, supermarkets Morrisons and Asda led the round of price cuts.

Morrisons was first cutting an unprecedented in one go 12p off the price of a litre of unleaded petrol. Simultaneously the price of a litre of diesel was cut by 8p. Asda reacted and said that drivers would now pay no more than 102p a litre for unleaded petrol and 108.7p a litre for diesel when filling up.

Mr Williams said: “These unprecedented times are leading to unprecedented price cuts on fuel – the largest single cut from a retailer we’ve ever seen. The price of oil has fallen so far – down to an 18-year low – that it was inevitable that pump prices would eventually follow suit.

These savings will directly benefit those people who continue to rely on their vehicles for essential journeys.”

Government fuels ‘green’ fleet revolution with wide ranging tax and fiscal incentives

The Government has fuelled a green vehicle drive with a range of Budget 2020 announcements designed to increase the corporate take-up of zero emission vehicles.

What’s more the combination of Budget announcements – led by Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak providing benefit-in-kind tax clarity for the next five years – is predicted to fuel increased demand for company cars from employees.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to end the sale of new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicles by 2040 and in all likelihood earlier, perhaps 2035 or even 2032.

Against that timeline, fleet operator representative organisations say that it is imperative that businesses and company car drivers focus on moving towards operating and driving 100% electric vehicles.

The Budget announcements would, according to the newly launched Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) – formed as a result of the merger of both ACFO and ICFM – as well as the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) and Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, support fleets and help drive the uptake of electric vehicles. They included:

  • £532 million to maintain the Plug-In Car and Van Grants until March 2023, although support for zero emission cars was cut with immediate effect from £3,500 to £3,000 per vehicle and cars costing £50,000 or more are now excluded
  • A continuation of the Workplace Charging Scheme grant, although from April 1, 2020 the amount of funding is cut from £500 to £350 per socket. However, the number of sockets allowed under the programme has been doubled from 20 to 40. The Government says that more than 6,500 workplace installations have been made to date and that cutting financial support will enable more businesses to benefit. Ministers also said that the average cost of chargepoint installations had steadily reduced since the introduction of the Scheme, so the decrease was in line with purchase prices
  • Exempting until March 31, 2025 all zero emission vehicles from the Vehicle Excise Duty ‘expensive car supplement’, which increases from £320 to £325 from April 1, 2020
  • Eliminating the Van Benefit Charge for zero emission vans from April 2021. However, in 2020/21 the van benefit charge will rise as planned to 80% of the main rate (2019/20: 60%)
  • Extending from April 2021 for four years the 100% first year capital allowance to zero emission cars only
  • Pledging £500 million to support the roll-out of a fast-charging network for electric vehicles, ensuring that drivers would never be further than 30 miles from a rapid charging station.

 Caroline Sandall, AFP joint chairman, said: “It is imperative that fleet decision-makers and company car drivers focus on moving towards operating and driving 100% electric vehicles.”

 While Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the BVRLA, said: “The Budget shows that the Government is listening and is ready to support those that are ambitious enough to embrace its decarbonisation targets.

“The Plug in Car Grant and Vehicle Excise Duty measures will play a massive role in making electric vehicles more affordable for thousands upon thousands of businesses and drivers across the UK.”

Reflecting on the raft of measures to support a ‘green vehicle drive’ and the beginnings of a market transition, Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, added: “We are pleased to see the Chancellor find room in his Budget to help make zero emission motoring a more viable option for more drivers – essential if we are to begin to meet extremely challenging environmental ambitions.”

Meanwhile, the Budget Statement confirmed that previously announced benefit-in-kind tax rates for 2020/21, 2021/22 and 2022/23 would be implemented as planned and that rates for 2023/24 and 2024/25 would be frozen at 2022/23 rates.

 Paul Hollick, AFP joint chairman, said: “With company car benefit-in-kind tax rates now known for a full five-year vehicle cycle, which is the norm for some organisations, the Budget could herald a resurgence of the company car. That’s because many drivers’ decision to opt out of a ‘favourite’ employee perk was driven by tax uncertainty.”

While Mr Keaney said: “Having a roadmap for the future of company car tax up to 2025 removes the uncertainty that we know stifles business decisions.”

Coronavirus pandemic: Fleet industry transitions to keep wheels of business turning

The fleet industry and the wider automotive sector is transitioning rapidly as the UK and the rest of the world tackles the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Prior and subsequent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ‘lockdown’ address to the nation on Monday (March 23) there have been numerous developments and further changes impact on the fleet industry can be expected.

At the time of going to press the following is what is known:

  • Garages, fuel stations and car rental outlets are among the ‘essential businesses’ the Government is allowing to stay open.
  • When filling up with fuel it is advised to take ‘take sensible precautions’. These include: Following the social distancing guidelines and using disposable gloves when handling pumps or electric car charge point nozzles.
  • Individual businesses within the ‘essential businesses’ sectors may decide to close – Kia has announced that approximately 40% of workshops at its 196 dealerships will continue to run an essential-only service – and garage/workshops may have to rearrange existing vehicle servicing and repair bookings. Additionally, some garages are restricting some services such as collection and delivery and ‘while you wait’ servicing and are urging customers to clean their vehicles before handover.
  • All cars, vans and motorcycles which usually would require an MoT test are exempted from needing a test from Monday, March 30 2020 for six months, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has announced. With legislation coming into immediate effect for 12 months, effectively it means that existing MoTs are valid for 18 months. Vehicles must be kept in a roadworthy condition, and garages will remain open for essential repair work. Drivers can be prosecuted if at the wheel of an unsafe vehicles. If drivers cannot get an MoT that’s due because they are in self-isolation, the Department for Transport is working with insurers and the police to ensure people are not unfairly penalised for things out of their control.
  • The DVSA has suspended MoTs for all HGVs, trailers and public service vehicles for up to three months from March 21, 2020. All HGV and PSV vehicles as well as trailers with an MoT will be automatically issued with a three-month certificate of temporary exemption. Operators will not receive a paper exemption certificate. Instead, the MoT will be extended by three months from its current due date. But the DVSA said that vehicles must be maintained, kept safe to drive and operated within the terms of Operators’ Licence conditions throughout that time.
  • Transport for London has temporarily suspended all road user charging schemes – the Congestion Charge, Ultra-Low Emission Zone and Low Emission Zone – in the city until further notice.
  • Car showrooms are among the businesses, premises and places that have been forced to close by the Government. As a result, new car and van deliveries are on hold.
  • Vehicle collections will almost certainly not occur. Vehicle remarketing companies have reduced their sale offerings to ‘online only’ sales at best as auctions are deemed to be ‘non-essential’ by the Government.
  • The suspension of vehicle production by almost every vehicle manufacturer in the UK and globally means that existing vehicle orders can be expected to be delayed and lead times will increase for future orders once plants again become operational. The length of factory closures varies, but typically runs to three or four weeks and longer in some cases with all manufacturers saying they will keep a production return under review.
  • Local authorities are delaying the introduction of planned Clean Air Zones later this year. Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council, which were due to introduce the UK’s first Zero Emission Zone in the university city in December, now say the scheme will implemented in summer 2021. Meanwhile, Birmingham City Council has written to the Government requesting postponement to the launch of its Clean Air Zone. Scheduled for implementation in summer 2020, councillors have asked for a delay “until at least the end of the calendar year”. It is also likely that Leeds City Council will delay implementation of its Clean Air Zone, which is due for introduction on September 28. However, any delay has yet to be officially confirmed by the authority.
  • UK Road Offender Education, which operates, manages, administers and develops the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme on behalf of the police, has suspended all classroom-based courses for an initial period of 12 weeks. The courses bring drivers together in one place, as an alternative to prosecution for some motoring offences including speeding. The organisation said that it would now work with forces and course providers to establish options to deal with drivers who had already been offered a course. Drivers will be contacted to explain what is going to happen next by the police force which issued the offer or the course provider. Drivers caught committing an offence when driving during the ‘lockdown’ are now likely to receive a fine and penalty points on their licence instead of the discretionary offer of a course that is no longer a current option.

Paul Ayris, fleet manager at Fleet Service Great Britain (Fleet Service GB) customer LiveWest, the largest provider of affordable homes in the south west of England, said: “We are monitoring the coronavirus situation daily. We will continue to provide essential business services to our customers and to protect our staff, and we have put contingency plans in place should our operations get disrupted at a point in the future.
“We appreciate that we are in uncertain times. We are working hard to ensure that it is business as usual for us and to continue to provide a full range of services to our customers. We recognise that we need to manage our services in a more flexible way and would like to thank everyone for their support.
“The need to have a functioning fleet is essential at all times, and especially at a time of national crisis. We are relaying on the support of our suppliers such as Fleet Service GB to provide the support they can in these difficult times, whilst appreciating they are in the same situation.”

Geoffrey Bray, executive chairman, Fleet Service GB, said: “With so many employees home-working and self-isolating many company cars are not clocking up the daily and weekly mileage they did previously. As a result, maintenance costs are reducing and some fleets are postponing services as well as maintenance and repairs because vehicle wheels are not turning.

“Equally, some garages and workshops are suffering from employees being off work and, as a result, are having to reschedule booked service, maintenance and repair work.”

Health and hygiene initiatives vital

Undoubtedly there will be changes in business practices as new health and hygiene initiatives are introduced to reflect the social distancing rules recommended by the Government.

For example, fast-fit giant Kwik Fit has said: “Where possible, our centres remain open and operating as normal, as is our mobile fleet. Our number one priority remains the safety and wellbeing of our people and customers, providing a safe and clean environment for everyone.

“The company has seen a 15% increase in enquiries for appointments for tyre fitting at customers’ homes, the majority of which are due to customers self-isolating after being impacted by the Government’s latest guidance on the coronavirus.

“The company, which operates a fleet of more than 200 mobile tyre fitting vehicles across the UK, has put special precautions in place to ensure that it is helping to stem the spread of the virus, while also ensuring that motorists have access to a safe car if they need it in an emergency.

“To avoid direct contact between the Kwik Fit technician and the customer, the company is asking customers to provide their car key without direct contact, for instance by putting the key on their front doorstep and going back inside. Once the customer is at a safe distance, the technician will pick the key up. Where possible, Kwik Fit will ask the customer to also provide the locking wheel nut from inside the vehicle. This way, Kwik Fit can carry out the work without entering the interior of the car.

“The technicians themselves are thoroughly cleaning their hands between each job and using fresh protective gloves for each vehicle. These measures, along with not coming into close contact with the customer, are designed to minimise any risk of passing infection between customers.

“We’ve temporarily changed our practices to help minimise contact and will not ask customers for their signature on paperwork or in store tablets. We will clearly demonstrate work that is required to make a vehicle safe, show drivers any parts removed and demonstrate any faults. Customers will be invited to receive quotations and invoices by email which we would appreciate them accepting to minimise contact.

“While normal life has been severely curtailed and many people are keeping travel to a minimum, it is still important for people’s peace of mind that their car is ready in case of emergency. Those car owners who are self-isolating have realised that mobile fitting is the perfect way to ensure their car is in a safe condition for when they are once more free to move around. We have responded to the increased requirements with greater stock levels to meet demand, but more importantly, by introducing key precautions to help reduce the spread of the virus.

“We will update our operations in accordance with Government advice and provide information via our website.”

Rival fast-fit National Tyres and Autocare, said in a statement: “We are taking extra precautions in our branches across the UK in response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

“All our staff routinely wear protective barrier gloves, fit seat covers and use floor mats before working on customers’ vehicles. Technicians work on ramps that are suitably spaced apart and customers do not need to interact with staff in the workshops space.

“As an additional precaution, and to minimise contact with staff and other customers, drivers have the option to call the branch when arriving rather than coming in to our reception area. We will see customers in order of arrival and they can remain in their vehicle until we are ready to begin work. Customers may wait in our reception area or if they prefer to leave the premises, we will give them a call to return when work is complete.

“We share everyone’s concerns in this unsettling period and will do everything we can to keep customers and our staff safe while working on a vehicle.”

Garage ‘concerns’ at MoT extension

Independent garages are “concerned” that their cash flow will be impacted by the Government’s decision to exempt all cars, vans and motorcycles from an MoT for six months.

Their trade body, the Independent Garage Association (IGA), has called on the Government to change the measure. The IGA has urged to Government to start with an initial six-week MoT extension period, which could then then reviewed on a weekly basis, rather than the six months plan.

In a statement, the IGA said: “There are a number of reasons why deferring MoTs by six months will have a huge detrimental impact on the independent sector, which carries out over 80% of the UK’s 30 million yearly MoT tests.

“The Government needs to consider that many MoT operations, being small businesses, will have their cash flow seriously impacted once this situation is over. Next year will bring about a significant reduction of tests in March/April/May and with some businesses in this sector only conducting MoT tests, in these instances, the crisis will extend for many years ahead.

“The current MoT failure rate is 31%, which means that nearly 10 million vehicles do not meet even the basic roadworthiness level of compliance. Any length of MoT extension will consequently increase the number of vehicles that are unroadworthy, even given reduced usage, so the Government needs to take this into consideration.”

Stuart James, IGA chief executive, added: “We understand that measures need to be put in place to fight the virus, and support these measures, however we do not agree with the six months extension of MoTs. We urge the Government to show a degree of flexibility, as the repercussions for the independent sector will be severe.”

Vehicle rental support employers

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), whose rental members operate 1,800 outlets UK-wide and a combined fleet of 371,000 cars, vans and trucks, said: “Many people think of vehicle rental as the car that they pick up from an airport on their annual holiday. In reality, around half of all vehicle rental transactions are with businesses supporting the transportation of people and goods.”

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “In these challenging times, vehicle rental is focussed on its most important customers. Right now, our members are providing cars to police forces, district nurses and Ministry of Defence sites; vans to plumbers and gas engineers; refrigerated lorries to food distributors and minibuses to schools with special educational needs.

“They may not have flashing lights or logos, but tens of thousands of rental vehicles across the UK are helping to keep our infrastructure running, our food stores stocked and our families safe and well.”

Used car prices tumble

Meanwhile, evidence is emerging of used car prices tumbling with the UK in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic. Conversely, the buoyancy of long-term used car prices could be helped by a slowdown in new car registrations in 2020.

Data from automotive valuation analysts Cazana, which studies market retail-driven pricing data on a real-time basis, suggests that over the middle two weeks of March the average price of petrol cars declined across all segments. Prices in the luxury car sector fell 16.96%, which the company called “very significant, and it was followed by: Executive cars down 7.33% and superminis down 5.87%.

By contrast the diesel sector is far more upbeat with prices increasing in all sectors apart from lower medium. Superminis showed the biggest positive uplift at 24.71% in retail pricing terms.

Cazana said: “Retail pricing for newly listed cars dropped by 6.6% between the second and third week of March representing a dip of on average £1,491 per vehicle.”

Used vehicle market experts at CAP HPI expect values to fall “by more than the seasonal norm over the coming weeks”. Its latest data reveals an average drop of 2.2% (-£275) on cars at the three-year/60,000-mile point. For newer used cars, the drop was 1.8% (-£425) at the one-year/20,000-mile point.

CAP HPI continued: “Our short-term forecasts for the coming months will be worse than otherwise would have been the case, as the effects of Covid-19 continue to be felt. At present, our longer-term forecasts for one to five years in the future are likely to remain broadly unchanged, as we wait to see longer-term impacts on new car registrations, especially following plant closures from many manufacturers. A fall in registrations this year could help support used values in the long term, and there are also a great many other factors which could yet influence values in various directions.”

Government launches consultation to end sale of new petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid vehicle

Fleets will only be able to take delivery of new 100% electric or hydrogen-fuelled cars and vans from 2035 – and potentially earlier – if the Government has its way.

Last month, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the Government would end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2035 at the latest – five years earlier than previously announced – to further crackdown on emissions and would include plug-in hybrid vehicles in the ban.

Now fleets are being asked by the Government for their views on the plan via a public consultation that asks five key questions:

  • The phase out date, which has been brought forward five years from 2040 and could be earlier if a faster transition appears feasible
  • The definition of what should be phased out
  • Barriers to achieving the above proposals
  • The impact of the ambitions on different sectors of industry and society
  • The measures required by Government and others to achieve an earlier phase out date.

The consultation document makes clear that owners of existing petrol, diesel, hybrid and plug-in hybrid cars and vans would still be able to drive them and buy and sell them on the used market.

In announcing the plan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the measure “demonstrated the UK’s urgent action to reduce emissions” and added that the “Government will continue to work with all sectors of industry to accelerate the rollout of zero emission vehicles”.

The newly-elected Government’s first Budget on Wednesday, March 11 is expected to include a number of measures designed to accelerate the push towards an electric and hydrogen-powered fleet future.

Critical for the fleet industry is the continuation of the Plug-In Car and Van Grants, the former of which is due to be axed at the end of March.

The maximum Plug-In Car Grant is £3,500 – there is no definitive date on expiry of the £8,000 Plug-In Van Grant – and Gerry Keaney, chief executive of the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, said: “Fleets will only be able to meet the Government’s ambitious new decarbonisation goals if they are given the right support with electric vehicle grants, tax incentives and infrastructure costs.”

With the Budget imminent, he continued: “Budget 2020 is an opportunity to set the tone for a new decade in which the transition to decarbonised road transport will be won or lost.

“Fleets are being asked to invest billions of pounds in new electric vehicle technology and infrastructure, which comes at a hefty price premium to its petrol and diesel alternatives.

“To achieve these goals the Government must provide a clear support package through to at least 2025. It must preserve the Plug-In Car and Van Grants, maintain a strong set of tax incentives and tackle the huge and often arbitrary costs associated with fleet charging infrastructure.”

Hopes are also high that the tax incentives will include retaining the reduced rates of company car benefit-in-kind tax due to take effect from April 6 for several years beyond 2022/23 for which they have been announced to date.

Meanwhile, as Britain gears up for an electric future in potentially just three vehicle replacement cycles time on average, concern has been expressed in the House of Lords at the potential hazard caused by electric vehicles breaking down.

Potentially taking longer to be removed that from roads than broken down internal combustion engine models, the Department for Transport is reported to be examining measures to ensure that electric vehicles can be removed from roads quickly.

During a debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Randerson, a Liberal Democrat transport spokeswoman, said: “[Electric] vehicles stop very suddenly. They also cannot be towed; they have to be put on a low-loader, which is a much more complex and longer process that will put rescue teams in greater danger.”

The debate came with the safety of so-called smart motorways, which use hard shoulders as live lanes, under microscope. The AA has previously said that the increased use of electric vehicles could be incompatible with smart motorways due to the lack of emergency refuge areas.

Meanwhile, the Vehicle Remarketing Association has highlighted a potential “charging crisis” for remarketing companies as electric vehicles start to make their way on to the used car market in larger numbers.

As vehicles are defleeted it is currently “just a question of ensuring that there is sufficient fuel in the tank of each”, according to the Association. However, in a new world of electric vehicles it will be vital to ensure they are charged to a “useable degree” to move them around.

Sam Watkins, chairman of the Association whose members handle more than 1.5 million used vehicles each year, said: “Once an electric vehicle has a flat battery, the movement of it becomes a challenge as they must be handled in line with correct safety protocols which differ from internal combustion engines.”

The Government consultation runs until May 29. The consultation document can be viewed at: